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Mission council calls on Fraser Health executives to start planning healthcare facilities

City officials want Mission to be included in health authority’s 2023 round of master planning
The City of Mission wants Fraser Health to include them in the 2023 round of master planning. / File Photo

Mission healthcare facilities are not on Fraser Health’s agenda, but council has formally asked the city to be included in the next round of site planning.

City council, Fraser Health executives, the Mission Division of Family Practices, and the non-profit Mission All Together for Healthcare (MATH) all attended a special council meeting on June 27.

“I am formally inviting, on behalf of our council, Fraser Health to incorporate Mission into the next series of those site plans,” Mayor Paul Horn said. “And to think about not just the current (hospital) campus, but a healthcare corridor.”

The discussion focused on three topics: communication between the municipality and the health authority, local growth projections, and where Mission fits into Fraser Health’s strategic planning.

All parties emphasized taking a collaborative approach in balancing the tension between centralized healthcare and local service needs.

Local perceptions have largely been shaped by the downsizing of Mission Memorial Hospital in 2002, when centralization of services led to the loss of its maternity ward and other services, according to Dr. Andy Edelson, co-chair of MATH.

Edelson said the public is extremely sensitive to any suggestion of stripping out more services to serve regional needs.

He added a recent Canadian Medical Association report calls for more community input into strategic planning, something “this community feels it has lost.”

In March, Fraser Health announced high-level facilities master planning was underway for hospitals in Abbotsford, Ridge Meadows and Peace Arch, setting out a 10-year development timeline.

Council have directed staff to draft a formal letter to Fraser Health asking to be included in the 2023 round of site planning.

Fraser Health executives spoke at the end of the meeting, but did not reveal much detail on what Missionites can expect in the future.

A clinical services planning exercise in Mission is nearing completion, according to Brendan Abbott, Fraser Health’s executive director.

The exercise is a “data-driven” process, he said, using clinician input, and local demographics and statistics – such as the incidence of chronic diseases – to determine what a local population needs, and what fits into a regional model.

“People can get very focused on the bricks and mortar,” Abbott said. “But I think it’s really thinking about our clinicians, what those patient journeys look like, what the services they need, how those services will grow.”

Fraser Health is one of the fastest growing health authorities in the province, and planners need to think about technological innovations to build up services in smaller communities, said Laurie Leith, Fraser Health’s VP of regional hospitals and health services. She specifically mentioned a shift to virtual care, and home support services.

“Not all communities have every level of service, and sometimes that’s hard for a community to hear,” she said. “We couldn’t possibly build cardiac services, open heart surgery in Mission and also have it in Abbotsford.”

By looking at Mission’s clinical components, Fraser Health can target specific services to build up, Leith said.

An invitation to Fraser Health to help the city host a community symposium was proposed by council, in order to “share notes” about what would fit into the regional model.

“That really needs to be informed by what Fraser Health thinks we might need,” Horn said. “What will work together with those already situated services, and what won’t work.”

Horn said the more presence Fraser Health has in the community, the easier the public will understand the point of centralization: avoiding redundancy and duplicated services.

Mission staff relayed to the executives a concept for a “healthcare corridor.”

Recent reports have highlighted the viability of institutional employment spaces as a way to combat Mission’s lack of traditional industrial employment lands.

The MDFP have also publicly discussed a dwindling amount of office space for family doctors.

Staff say there’s an opportunity to transform certain areas into corridors with general practitioners, specialized medical services and other healthcare institutions.

Developing neighbourhoods like the Cedar Valley and Silverdale, specifically along Hurd Street adjacent to the hospital are seen as having potential, according to staff.

But city planners need to know what infrastructure Fraser Health needs for potential facilities, Horn said.

“Until we have a firm plan that says these might have a use for healthcare … We really are just going to be obligated to let them be residential, or ground for commercial,” Horn said.

Leith said council’s request for more collaborative data sharing and stakeholder input will be taken to Fraser Health’s board of directors.

“I’ve heard your request,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity and innovation, I think, that comes with all your development that is going on.”